You DO own your brand. But, it’s all about the customer.

 A female shopper viewing many brands of milk

A lot has been written about this topic. Much of which states that your customer owns your brand, not you. While we understand what’s prompting this, we respectfully choose to disagree. We have a different perspective.

Recently, I had a conversation with someone that made me pause. He said, “Well, we don’t really own our brand, the customer does.” And, while it was a passing comment, I wasn’t certain I agreed. After all, brands are assets that, when managed well, can accrue significant value. We don’t need to look any further than Nike, Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Apple for proof. But, when it comes to the deeper meaning of “owning” a brand, I paused.

The way a customer experiences a brand is unique to him or her, depending on the brand and his or her relationship with it. Customers also have opinions about brands which they now share freely via social media and other channels. So, customers are definitely brand influencers and they are a critical part of your brand’s voice. And, while we as practitioners of brand management attempt to facilitate and encourage certain types of customer experiences, people will interact with our brands based on their own values and beliefs that are true for them.

Customers absolutely own their experience with your brand. And that’s what they talk about. But, that doesn’t mean that they “own your brand.” You own your brand and you need to manage it so that it remains relevant, trustworthy and valuable. To do that, you need to get inside the minds and hearts of your customers to be sure you fully understand what’s important to them and why they do – or don’t – love your brand. Only then can you manage your brand in a way that ensures customers will love their experience with it.

Deb Fiorella

Thanks to living in various parts of the United States and Europe, Deb brings a global perspective to building and managing client relationships and brands. She oversees the development of all brand and marketing strategy behind the team’s design solutions for Fortune 1000 organizations and nonprofits. Having worked on the client side for a Fortune 500 organization in the beginning of her career, Deb understands the day-to-day challenges our clients face and ensures that the rest of the team does, too.

Deb’s natural leadership abilities, experience and insights help the team deliver brand strategy and design solutions that often exceed expectations. No wonder clients seek her guidance and expertise time and again!

Born in New York, Deb has called home to many places—including Brussels, Belgium—until settling in Minneapolis after earning a BA in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Minnesota. Her ongoing education in marketing and brand management includes the Yale School of Management AIGA “Business Perspectives for Creative Leaders.” She is a member of and financial advisor to AIGA, the professional association for design, and belongs to Design Management Institute. Deb speaks to industry peers on the national and local level, and regularly educates business leaders in many industries about the benefits of design as a strategic business tool.

In her spare time, Deb enjoys painting, skiing, biking, cooking, reading, traveling and doing fun kid stuff with her husband Craig and their daughter.